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Thursday, February 18, 2021

Day 20 of 21: Change Your Perspective

 Original image by Rachel Byer https://www.rachelbeyer.com/blog/2019/7/29/the-hanged-woman

The Hanged Man is the card of ultimate surrender, of being suspended in time and of martyrdom and sacrifice to the greater good. He is hanging upside-down, viewing the world from a completely different perspective, and his facial expression is calm and serene, suggesting that he is in this hanging position by his own choice. He has a halo around his head, symbolizing new insight, awareness and enlightenment. His right foot is bound to the tree, but his left foot remains free, bent at the knee and tucked in behind his right leg. His arms are bent, with hands held behind his back, forming an inverted triangle. There is a halo burning brightly around the hanged man's head, signifying a higher learning or an enlightenment.

What does this represent? Wisdom, circumspection, discernment, trials, sacrifice, intuition, divination, prophecy. It's opposite is Selfishness, the crowd, body politic.

Why have I posted this image for the penultimate day of my 21 day challenge? Because as I near it's end, I realize it's all about changing perspective. In order to get that alternate view, you have to know where you are - you have to center to get a bead. Once you know where you are, you can see where you've been, and then make decisions about where you want to go.

For 20 days (ish) now I've been writing about practicing yoga and meditation, and how they relate to me personally, how I've been instructing in my classes and reflecting back on new techniques and lingering thoughts. As much as I started out with intent for this to be "life changing" at some point I was just going with the flow, waiting for it to end because it was just another task to have to complete. It's not that I don't think about yoga every day, it's just that my thoughts aren't always noteworthy for sharing. Yet I committed to putting them into the blogosphere for the sake of argument, to fulfill a promise, and to see what insight I might divine from it.

Like some of my classes on Zoom, with the blog, there's an audience that doesn't really get to chime in one way or the other except in after comments. Essentially I'm journaling, and it feels empty sometimes, like I'm a lone semantic alchemist trying to conjure golden expressions of genius out of random metal words and phrases. 

That being said, during this process I have been partaking in two different type of learning. I have this Yoga for Mental Health training with Cindy Beers (https://cindybeers.com/events/) where I have been immersed in lessons on mindfulness to help recognize, alleviate, and work with depression, PTSD and stress within the boundaries of a yoga practice.  I also have started on a path to some sort of certification in biological/exercise science, and have enrolled in a Introduction to Kinesiology class. Going back to formal "college" was huge in conquering my fear and anxiety that almost prevented me from graduating back in 1988 (but that's a story for another time). 

The 21-day yoga challenge didn't necessarily make me better at yoga pose, or an expert at meditation, but it led me to dive more deeply into learning. Something sparked that quest for higher knowledge, and fueled the confidence to finally enroll. 

The Tarot card above (which traditionally would be shown with a man) kept popping up in my mind the past week or two, and when I was trying to find just the right picture this one came up. I think it's beautiful and represents where I am. People often see images like this in Tarot and think "Oh, that's bad!" If you look more deeply at the image you can absolutely see that even though the person seems bound and "hung" they are not in distress at all. It occurred to me that they are in fact holding tree pose, with their hands on the back and front of their power center (third chakra), and hanging not by an external force, but with strength of their own leg from the tree. Tree pose, one representing growth, strength, nature, connectedness. In this position, upside down, perhaps it could mean the tree can grow where it chooses, even upside down. Just because circumstances are odd, doesn't mean that you can't thrive; you just need to get centered. 

The scene isn't gruesome, but serene, acrobatic, and even calm. Not bad at all. Tarot cards like Death and The Fool likewise aren't bad but depict something about change. They aren't meant to frighten or disgust but help the reader or even casual observer look at things with a different perspective.

So that's where I am with this practice. Thinking about how these past 20 days have given me insight to what is really important, and how I might proceed to stay true to what I need. Next time I need a reset, I'll remember to stand on my head!


Saturday, February 13, 2021

Day 19 of 21: Yoga Nidra

In a Yoga Nidra meditation, you are guided through a body scan with the intention of the mind settling into a relaxes state of consciousness between wakefulness and sleep.

There are many guided meditations you can find online, and one of my homework assignments was to write/record a Yoga Nidra practice. So, I am posting mine here for you to try. 

It is just 20 minutes start to finish, but to prepare for this meditation, you'll need to lay down first and get settled (I didn't do a long intro I just went right into it). You can do so on a mat, or a bed, or sit in a chair, but make sure you are warm and comfortable and safe. Ideally you wouldn't need to move, but there are no "points off" for having to adjust if you are uncomfortable.

(Truth be told, I did a two hour Nidra once and I think started snoring 1/2 way through, and once I was bumped awake, realized that the flesh around my tailbone was numb because we were on a wood floor with no props. I don't think suffering through this is the way to go so get yourself comfortable.)

What you'll hear on my very rudimentary recording is me guiding you to pay attention to certain body parts, slowly and methodically, hopefully encouraging a trancelike state of mind. 

I feel like this could be used for a good morning wakeup or even an afternoon nap refresher. Let me know what you think!

Friday, February 12, 2021

Day 17 and 18 of 21: Honoring Commitment

Fell off the blogging wagon for a day, but I promise you I was practicing yoga without fail. So here's two days worth of updates. I absolutely was Om-ing and trying to figure out what it meant to me as I wander through this week, and today, I came across this gem in A Year of Living Your Yoga

Whatever you do, do it with an open heart. Maybe you agreed to do something, but now you wish you hadn't. If you do choose to follow through in the end, do so with willingness and interest. You will suffer less and so will the others around you.

Each day I wake up a little begrudgingly knowing I made a commitment to post because I'm trying to create a habit of getting my ideas generator used to working more than sporadically. This in turn will help make my classes better, me happier, my life in general more fulfilling, and my family and friends may find me more pleasant to be around. 

So missing a day of posting means that I let myself down. Plus I forget any of the juicy ideas that did come up during the experience. They may not be noteworthy to anyone but me, but the ship has sailed once 24 hours have passed. Like having an amazing dream, and not telling anyone or writing it down, and by the next day it's just hazy memories like a partially erased tape or warped photo. 

Plus the past three-ish days I have been battling migraines and the medication has left me feeling like I have a swiss cheese personality, so recapturing any of the flashes of insight from yesterday are difficult.

I do remember that the book listed above offered the idea of meditating on thing (person or object or idea) that brings your happiness, and allowing that sensation to fill you. I thought it might be interesting to combine the mental image of this with an Om vocalization.  I like the idea of infusing the Om practice with another object of focus - like dedicating the practice to an object of love or happiness. I had chosen my son. However in hindsight I may have been overcomplicating the practice a bit at least as a beginning meditator. I will have to discuss this with my mentor and research a bit to see if chanting and imagery are advised. I didn't get any feedback from the class (yet) so we will see. 

The migraine effect continues today, and I was rummaging around my brain to find a way to keep people interested in the Om practice. I brought out the singing bowl thinking that we would use that to guide our Oms, but I forgot that I don't have a striker to elongate the sound, and my foggy head and voice were unable to match the note of the bowl so that my "singing" fell so flat it was comical. 

After a few anti-sonorous attempts I croaked out a few Oms but I didn't feel good about them. Directly afterwards I read the aphorism above and laughed quite literally out loud. I mean, I made my best attempt with sincerity, so hopefully no one suffered (more than already was). I meant well, my heart was in it, but my literal pain and drug affected brain could not cash the check!

This post is part apology, part confession, and all receipt reminder for future me when this happens again: keep the commitment, but you don't have to try so hard. I'm thinking don't scramble to "entertain" just stick with what you know. A simple Om practice would have been very grounding me for me, would have worked just as well for the class, and fulfilled the obligation 100% (and I'd feel far less guilty). 

Note to self: I really have to find a bowl striker.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Day 16 of 21: Connecting to the Source

To further my Om practice, today I led the class in a two-minute session. The daily reading from a book (https://www.amazon.com/Yoga-365-Daily-Wisdom-Life/dp/1452145008) I often garner inspiration offered the idea of choosing a word on which to focus a daily intention. Today, I chose Om/Source. 

The daily idea not only suggested choosing a word, but also noting how that word presenting itself throughout the day. Did a situation arise where it was important to remember that word, or perhaps you saw an example of it? Did you need to remind yourself of that word to help you maintain focus during your practice? What does that word mean to you? Examine the reasons why you chose it, both obvious, and perhaps more subconscious.

This week being “Om” week I wanted to stay consistent with my practice, and Wednesday we work on our core, so using the idea of “source” (centering) seemed to fit the theme appropriately. Sometimes I’ll pick an intention for practice, but partway through class my mind has been racing and I forget the exact word I’ve chosen as the intention, so this one I was sure to remember!

I also wanted to change up the opening meditation practice, so instead of just three rounds of Om, I told class that we would do two minutes of meditation on our chosen “mantra” to be recited aloud or in our own minds, but I would also be turning off my microphone so that my voice would not be interfering with their meditation. 

For two full minutes (timed on my Google Home Mini) I vocalized my Oms. I found myself smiling, and enjoying the sonorous quality, and to my surprise not feeling left wanting when I transitioned to silence. I am starting to embrace the idea of the quiet after the Oms being part of the “rebirth” or “fourth state of consciousness” and something to be enjoyed as much as the chanting itself. It’s almost like the spirit of the Om remained in the room, even if the sound itself wasn’t perceived.

At the end of class, I gave everyone the opportunity do a three-Om chant with me by enabling their microphones, but as far as I could tell no one took me up on it (yet). I still allowed my voice to ring out clearly, from my source, my center with the purest of intention to theirs in the spirits of one-ness. 

Om, indeed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Days 14 and 15 of 21: No Place Like Om

 So this is a two-for-one post to catch me up. I will more than likely post for a extra day to make up for missing one.

I want to focus on how I've been practicing the Om chanting with my classes and compare the effects to that of affirmations, so here goes.

In my in-person yoga classes at the libraries I don't often include Oms because it's a non-sectarian, very secular environment and I never want anyone to feel uncomfortable with a Sanskrit, more traditional yoga based practice. We have people coming in from many different backgrounds and as we are providing the classes for free, on public property, it's important to make sure no one feel intimidated by the content. Occasionally I have asked students if they wanted to practice with the sound of Om and when they were open to it, we did. 

In classes I do online from my home I can be more in control of my content, so I have been (as you have read) incorporating more meditation, more philosophy, more traditional "yogic" information. This information authenticates the experience of yoga for me, and therefore I find it important to share. I enjoy the  sound of voices in unison reverberating through a room, ringing in the beginning and end of a group practice in harmony. 

I have been part of many different types of Om practices: single Oms, multiple Oms, rolling Oms (where one group of people start, and others join in at various points, one group always starting as another finishes, for a few minutes until the lead signals all voices to come to quiet), silent Oms, Chakra toning, Oming chants with recordings. They all serve different purposes and can have different effects on the practitioner. 

I introduced my two online classes (the Chair Yoga for Seniors and the Special Needs Chair Yoga) to the the practice of chanting three Oms aloud as a group at the beginning of class, following by a few moments of silence, as a means of celebrating and formally starting a practice.

I began by explaining what the sounds of the Om are (Awe-OO-MMM), and where in the body they move (from chest to throat, mouth/head, lips). Also that the sound moves from the back of the mouth to the center and to the front palate.

I read some passages of interpretation about the Om (that it represents Birth, Life, Death, and Rebirth), and how it is described as the primordial or most basic of sounds.

To assist understanding, I suggest everyone think of a song they love, and a reason why they love it, and/or the emotions that come up when they hear that song. Then they should think about if they are moved to sing or hum along with the song, and how they feel when they can participate in creating the sound of the song. The power of the Om is like that - participating in creating the sound connects us to the song of the universe, and we can start to notice how we feel/react to that simplest of sounds.

One of the benefits of doing the class via Zoom is that no one had to feel self conscious Om-ing in front of other people; everyone was able to keep their microphones off so that only person that heard them chanting was themselves. It's an opportunity to get comfortable with the practice on your own. Later this week I will offer both classes a chance to turn on their mics and Om with me aloud (I'll post the responses to that).

I often think someone might still have reservation about "chanting" thinking it's a religious thing or that I am asking someone to say words invoking something they don't understand (in fact, one person did ask me exactly that). To put everyone minds at ease I am always very specific about explaining what Om means ("source") and humming is also a perfectly acceptable substitute. I also like to point out, for those that have their own faith-based practices, chanting "amen" might be more familiar, would work with the exact same intention (amen means "so be it"), and have similar vocalizations (ahhhhhhhhh-meeeeeeeeehhhhhhnnnnnnn). Some speculate that "amen" may have derived from "om" or "aum" as well (see reference).

I lead the chant three times, and this correlates to the sounds A-U-M, also to the three states of consciousness: waking state, dreaming state, and dreamless sleep of spirit. The entire word represents the fourth state, samadhi (full awakeneing), and that is our silence after we chant. 

How do I feel when I Om? Buzzy. Awake. Sometimes, if I'm emotional, it can cull from me tears as I sound through the lengthened exhale. But always Alive and Aware. I try to create the sound in different place in my body; sometimes my sinuses, sometimes, my belly, just to see where I can place the vibration, or where it wanders if I'm not mindful. 

It feels weird to be chanting alone. The silence afterwards can be startling. I miss hearing the voices of others ringing out harmoniously after I've stopped. Even after the fifth or sixth time of this resurrected practice, I still anticipate hearing others when my humming stops. The more I guide the practice for others the more I build my confidence, and try to find the beauty in that quiet, content rather than seeking. I've been asking for feedback to see how others are feeling. Some are responding that they find it calming. One gentleman was not a fan, saying he very comically stated that he felt like a sick cow, and we all giggled. I reassured him that there are no wrong feelings and he might find nice easy breathing more to his liking next time (he smiled broadly). 

I guess, if anything, Om is Moo backwards.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Day 13 of 21: Let Veda Rule Your Happy Shiny Om

Back when I was working on becoming a kids yoga teacher I had the unique opportunity to sit in on classes at the Chopra center, as well as assistant teach and even substitute teach family yoga classes there.  Each class has a particular flow to it, that had to include Chakra toning with the Bija Mantras. Bija means seed, and the purpose of each seed is to activate the chakra, or energy center, with sound, or, rather, a chant.

My teacher had a mnemonic to remember the names of the sounds, hence the title of this post.  (Note: some practices will skip the Sham and just repeat Om twice). The sounds are:

Lam for the root chakra, to activate/draw attention to connection to earth, grounding energy, and the phrase "I am."

Vam for the sacral chakra (just below the belly button), to energize creativity, and the mantra "I feel."

Ram for the solar plexus, for personal fortitude and willpower, focus on "I do."

Yam for the heart, where both receives and gives emotion, with "I love."

Ham for the throat chakra, for find the words of truth for "I speak."

Sham for third eye chakra, the intuitive knowing, phrased as "I see."

Om for the seventh chakra at the crown of the head, the place where we are connected to the divine, for "I understand."

A practice that includes "oms" can be powerful because vocalization resonates in the body and has an effect on the nervous system, reverberates in the sinus cavities, and stimulates the brain. Music/sounds has deep connectivity with memory. The word/sound of om (actually pronounced AUM) utilizes all the vowel sounds and is said to create a unique focus for your conscious mind. [You can read more about OM here. https://www.yogajournal.com/philosophy/the-sound-of-om/].

On the simplest level, it can feel good simply to vocalize a simple chant during yoga with the entire class, or release any self consciousness and sink deep into a resonant open mouthed OM!

The Bija Mantras are a nice scale to utilize to energize the whole body, uttering each seed on a long outbreath, and focusing on the chakra to which it pertains. A five minutes practice, repeating the mantras while drawing attention to each energy center as you utter the syllable, picturing energy moving into the area of the body and creating warmth, healing, and vitality can be a very powerful medtiation.

It will be my practice this evening. I hope the title of this post can help you remember the sequence: Let Veda Rule Your Happy Shiny Om! Lam Vam Ram Yam Ham Sham Om!

Saturday, February 6, 2021

Day 12 of 21: Jewish Meditation

I was asked today to offer a blessing before a reading of a portion of the Torah (the first five books of the bible sacred in Judaism), during the Saturday morning service (Shabbat). 

Being asked to give this aliyah ("calling up") is an honor, and it was bestowed up me by the Sisterhood of the Synagogue to which I belong, as a thank you for provide community yoga classes last year. 

The entire service revolved around Sisterhood members and contributors with both Aliyot (plural for aliyah), readings from Torah, and other prayers, in a beautiful multi-generational collaboration of speaking, singing, and praise. 

We had a special guest contributor as well, Allison Leichter https://www.alisonlaichter.com/, who not only spoke eloquently about the weekly Torah story (Parashat) but wove it into a delightful meditation session.

During the service there is a reading and sermon about a story from the Torah. This week's is that of Jethro (Hebrew "Yitro"), the advisor to Moses, and the giving of the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. (Check out more about this story here https://medium.com/ifnotnowtorah/yitro-all-night-revelation-6b196bf6e8ab.)

In the words of our Rabbi:

In our Torah reading this week, Parashat Yitro, we continue to tell the story of the Exodus from Egypt. The Israelites make it to Mount Sinai and they receive the Ten Commandments. The Exodus from Egypt becomes one of the most symbolic experiences, a defining moment, and an inspiring story in Judaism’s tradition. According to the Talmud, we owe it all to the merit of righteous women for making it happen.  

Also, Yitro (Moses' father-in-law) advises Moses to set up a system of judges so that Moses does not have to answer every individual question himself, lest he exhaust himself (“you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well").

Allison's meditation focused on the idea of "t'shuvah," or returning for Moses, meaning settling, coming home, or grounding. The advice from Yitro to Moses was that he needed to "come home" or settle into himself by delegating his work, and making sure to conserve his resources. The idea is that we each need to return to ourselves so that we can best provide to our community. 

Allison also brought up the idea of the divine breathing (life) into man, and by that token perhaps we can allow breath to move through us, rather than have it be so labored. So as we sit in our quiet moments, we should allow ourselves to breathe, allow the breathe to flow as if we are being breathed (into), rather than be something that requires work. 

Another image was that of interconnectivity - that each of our in-breaths is an out-breath of green things. We are interconnected not just with our human community but with all living things!

I am fascinated by the historical stories in the Torah, as well as interpretations that help shed light on human behavior rather than dictate dogma. To be able to channel the stories into a basis for meditation is illuminating and I hope to find more ways to follow Allison's practice. 

My meditation this morning was "I am a proud of my Jewish heritage." I think it's time I felt that good about it.  

Day 11 of 21: Releasing Anger, Reinforcing Self

(I'm writing this Saturday morning so we should call it 11.5)

Fridays I lead two classes: Chair Yoga with "seniors" and Chair Yoga with clients of Regional Center (adults with ID/DD). I have been working on affirmations/meditation with both groups, to not only practice what I'm learning but also impart the lessons that I'm finding so rewarding. Also, to try to finish this week with consistency (each week I try to have a theme in classes). 

I wanted to truly bring home the idea that affirmations, when applied with mindfulness, can work. For the first class, I repeated the meditation, partially, from yesterday (see day 10 of 21) about releasing tension from the belly. For my personal journey, I am finding it necessary to consciously work towards releasing not just tension, but frustration, negativity, and anger that hold me back from being productive, from feeling joy, from wanting to get out of bed in the morning on some days. These affirmations have been pivotal in helping me reset my sense of self, and realizing that I can choose to liberate myself from the roiling and raging in my own head.

For the seniors chair yoga class I used EFT and my personal affirmation was "I release anger."

For my gentle yoga class, I used the Havening gestures. I thought it might help everyone remember how to utilize the practice if I created a rhythmic repetition like in the ETF. So, we did the four Havening moves in sequence while repeating our affirmation, and did five rounds with breath. I have to admit as I'm writing this 18 hours past so I cannot remember and that shows me I wasn't sincerely focused. (My purpose was to impart the idea to the class and I was unable to settle on a focus point for myself this time.)

What I wanted to emphasize was that affirmation are to uplift, to enhance, focus, ground, release, relax, restore, balance. Whatever is needed, the individual has the capacity and power to create it. The hand gestures can help soothe the nervous system and reinforce the message when it's hard to sit still for a "traditional" meditation, and actually enhance the affirmation message by tapping (literally) into the subconscious.

By the end of class everyone just wanted to socialize, so I think they were feeling pretty good. Mission accomplished :)

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Day 10 of 21: Allow Yourself to Release Stress

 Ever have that horrible feeling in your gut, that anxiety/tension that just doesn't diminish? Like you did too many sit-ups, and your muscles can't relax enough to let you breathe fully, or you ate a really something really greasy and it's a knot in your stomach? But this isn't actually caused by a physical situation - it's purely emotional and it's manifested physically. You get the picture. 

Someone today asked if there was yoga to do to help alleviate this. What occurred to me was breathwork, affirmation/mantra, and believe it or not, the entire concept of letting go. We so much hold on to our need to fix, to duct tape/glue/kluge our lives into some semblance of order that we are often holding in the anger, the fear, the very thing that keeps in the pain. 

I offered the following relaxation technique not as a quick fix but a daily practice we can integrate into our daily routines to help us weather the chaos.

Sit comfortably, hands on the belly. Close your eyes. Allow the breath to move the belly, encourage it to do so. Resist the urge to push the belly out or squeeze it in as you might do during an active asana practice or ujayyi breath. Feel air move through the nostrils, and flow easily to the belly. If you feel the hands rise and fall, you're getting the hang of it.

Now, repeat to yourself "I allow myself to release this tension." With the inhale, say "I allow myself," and with the exhale "to release this tension." Take three to four counts to do each half-breath. Do ten cycles of breath (or more), repeating this mantra and truly accepting the idea of letting go. Check in that you are loosening the shoulder, and letting the belly move freely in and out.

Once you have finished your mantra repetition, continue to breathe easily, and notice if there is any shift in the belly tension. Envision whatever stress you may have been holding there, like ropes or braids, unravelling, dissolving into pieces, and moving through your body, and out - out through your skin through sweat, your nostrils through breath, and other elimination channels. Let your body naturally release this negative energy breaking it down to render it harmless and then purging it from you. 

Continue to take easy breaths in and out, as long as need. As you wish to come back to the present, notice your connection with the earth through feet, sit bones, back body. Start to reconnect with the sensation of air on your skin, the sense of light behind your eye lids, and move the hands slowly up your body until palm meets palm in front of your heart. 

Seal in your commitment to taking care of your body by bowing your head, thank your body for releasing for healing, and complete your meditation.

Give yourself permission to not take on another stomach ache. Drop me a note if this works for you - it helped me today. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Day 9 of 21: Sit with Your Power

On Wednesdays our Chair Yoga practice usually revolves around strengthening the core, through abdominal exercises (traditional and non-traditional) and exploring the ideas of reinforcing our center. I read a word today that I found intriguing when in comes to describing personal power and strength: resolve. I like the way it implies fortitude and resilience but also a flexibility/malleability, stick-to-it-ive-ness but also level-headedness about itself. Also, a carpet cleaner (respective of nothing related to yoga, but funny).

Bearing that idea in mind, I suggested that everyone perhaps find an affirmation that reflected their own sense of power, whether it be something akin to "I am strong," or anything that was uplifting, to help celebrate, reinforce, and focus on the idea of fortifying our passion and strength. 

We sat quietly for 10 long inhales and exhales, with the suggestion to speak aloud their affirmation/mantra, then sit quietly while we waited for the group.

I then read a passage "chair pose" (Utkatasana) and how it embodies this resolve and  strength, but also requires an awareness of not putting in too much effort, to understand what your "edge" is.

On the beneficial side, Utkatasana done mindfully is a wonderful energy generating pose that conditions the leg muscles, core muscles, works balance (esp. standing version), builds endurance, mobilizes the leg joints, hips, shoulders, creates mental focus (drshti) and preps the body for more work. It takes practice and mindful resolve to know how, what, and when to commit to each and every action.

There are a number of caveats with the physical posture-including and certainly not limited to being mindful of knee placement and bend, low back position to ensure no lordosis nor slouch, shoulder position to ensure upper back health, head and neck position - and on top of that utilizing the breath to maintain a steady heart rate and keep blood pressure even while not fatiguing the glutes, hamstrings, etc. 

Even in a chair, this pose can be "overdone" with too much flexion at the hips, which could create low back issues, strain in the shoulders or neck, or stress the hip flexors. One might start clenching their jaw, round their shoulders, and/or end up creating body alignment that harms rather than helps. A pose of this intesity needs extra mindfulness!

All the sequences and postures I led in class were tied back to power of chair pose. One basic exercise was awareness of the movement of the transverse abs (I can thank my Physical Therapist for that). We had a seated sequence that combined arms overhead, with single knee lifts to target our transverse abdominals. We had a standing sequence that moved us from chair pose, to lunges, to single leg lifts to challenge balance, but also (yes) to target the abdominals and also draw awareness to the psoas. 

We even tackled a 60-second plank (class is on Zoom with no cameras to students so I have no idea if anyone else did this with me, but I walked the walk!), focusing on the power in our center and as always, coming out of the pose if there is any undo strain. We do not develop our strength and power through pain, or force; we must be aware of how we work our body.

We then went back to our chairs and did some seated lunges with side bends and twists to help open up those psoas and side body muscles, and even the quads. After building the heat, now we wanted to start let the fire die down a bit.

Our ending sequence brought us back to where we started, sitting with our power, reflecting on our affirmations. After seeing how powerful our bodies are, I reminded everyone, always take the time to thank it, honor it, breathe. I repeated for them my affirmation which was "I am strong." Why should we resolve to be any less? 

Namaste.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Day 8 of 21: Teaching Tap

I was nervous to introduce the EFT/Tapping idea to my chair yoga class, seeing as I'm not trained in the technique other than having been led a few times through it in the class I'm taking, and I'm practicing on my own. But having had some energetic success, I thought "Why not?" I mean, why not be confident enough to know that I understand the general concept, that I would  be doing no harm, and in fact opening up a new way to express self-appreciation? It's gentle touch on the body, mantra, and breathwork, three things with which I'm familiar. I would be doing no psycho analysis and the caveats would be "stop if you feel uneasy" as always.

For the past week I have been emphasizing the importance of affirmation, not only because I'm learning about it in my class, but because as you've been reading, it seems to be working for me, to keep my chin above water, head up high, keep me motivated to move forward (or at the very least not move backwards). So much of what I teach is based on personal example (not an abstract picture of what some unattainable posture might suggest, or someone wrote in a book to which no one can relate). The way that I humanize the experience of practice I feel is what draws people back to my classes. I try not only to explain what I'm going through but also put myself into someone else's shoes (socks, feet, seat). That way I can offer options for the practice that fit other bodies. 

For example, affirmation isn't always "I am beautiful" or "I am strong." It might be "I feel connected to the earth energetically" to help someone ground, or even, "I am an integral part of my community. 

The tapping itself seems to wake up the body in a way that I did not expect. I admitted to the class that at first I was not a fan. I felt silly, I wasn't sure how to modulate the pressure of the tap, and I was easily distracted perhaps because I couldn't hold an affirmation in mind. 

So I offered them a list of affirmation, and we spent most of class working on asana and breath and grounding to create a sense of steadiness and being embodied. Then at the end of class I introduced the tapping process, suggesting that they keep the affirmation simple. Mine today was "I am a vibrant and beautiful person." 

I had us begin with the hand tap, then walked everyone through two rounds where I said my affirmation aloud, then for the last three I whispered mine so they wouldn't have my voice in their heads. 

After the fifth round, we sat quietly, with an instruction from me to just notice if there was any shift in perception, sensation, or thought pattern.

Once we concluded class I explained that what we had done was "EFT" and by all means they should investigate if they observed any response in their body, energy, etc. One woman shared that it was quite a calming experience for her.

For me, practicing as a guide, and for myself, I felt really energized, like I have the other two times. There was a buzz, and an empowerment, like a full body "Mona Lisa smile" that told me the technique had served it's purpose. 

I hope to guide the practice more. One tap at a time.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Day 7: Tappity Tap Tap

 Got up, got out of bed, put hot water across my head.... (apologies to Sir Paul McCartney).

Tapping while I'm showering seems to be an thing so today's affirmation comes courtesy of some delightfully pine/evergreen scented soap. I'm starting my kinesiology class today and admittedly a bit nervous, what with the Yoga for Mental Health program still going on, book club still meeting on the reg, Purimshpiel practice about to begin, and in general me trying to take ownership of a more mindful life. So I needed an affirmation to reinforce being competent, being smart, being capable.

Tapping really seems to energize, and I know that I'll be doing some havening when I teach later today, so I tried to be honest without being negative, positive without making it feel false. "Even though I know that I struggle with being organized and doing things I time, I know that I am a capable and intelligent woman."

I started the tapping with the outer hand gesture, and a almost a whisper. I kid you not (apologies to Jack Parr), by round three I was speaking very much declaratively and with full vocalization. By round five, if I told you didn't believe (in) myself I'd be lying.

Is this hard? Yes. Do I feel a little silly whenever I start, yes. Does that silliness fall away? Yes yes yes. Why? I have no idea (yet), but it does. Because it feels GOOD to believe what I'm saying, it feels good to believe in myself. Like I'm tapping it into my soul, or tapping the message out of me. Either way, i'm for it.